Hornets ground out victory over McClellan
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By ROB PATRICK
LITTLE ROCK — For six or seven years now, the Bryant Hornets’ offensive philosophy has boiled down to this: Be prepared to take what the defense gives you.
But, realistically, that has often meant something closer to: Be prepared to take what PASSES the defense gives you. You see, whatever the circumstance, the Hornets were going to throw the ball, either because that’s what they really wanted to do (particularly under former head coach Daryl Patton) or what they had the personnel to do.
But, on Friday, Oct. 1, when the Hornets were faced with a six-man secondary deployed by the speedy Little Rock McClellan Lions, they did indeed take what the defense gave them, rushing a whopping 47 times for 233 yards to key a 23-0 victory in AAAAA-Central Conference play. The team’s first win over McClellan since 1999 included three more field goals by Todd Bryan, extending his state record career total to 31.
“They were playing a cover-two man which leaves five in the box,” noted Bryant head coach Paul Calley, “and we had to run it. It’s hard to throw the ball against six d-backs.
“We just felt like we had to be able to run the football in order to be successful,” he added. “Our guys came out and blocked well for the run, our backs — (Brandon) Butler got banged up a little bit and (Zach) Kellum came in and did a great job. He’s a different kind of back. He’s elusive and little bit quicker, not necessarily a power runner. When he came in, we kind of had them worn down. He’s hard to see. It’s hard to get your hands on him.”
Kellum, who carried the ball for the first time this season, when he replaced Butler, wound up with a team-high 81 yards on 14 carries. Butler, who stung his shoulder but was able to come back later, wound up with 62 yards on 15 totes. Eight different players ran the ball for Bryant.
Quarterback Anthony Mask completed 9 of 18 passes for 95 yards before suffering a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter and giving way to senior Bryan Griffith. The team’s starting free safety, Griffith led the team on a final drive that ate up the final 4:09 of the game and ended at the McClellan 4.
With a surprise conference loss to Little Rock Catholic behind them and the No. 1 Little Rock Central Tigers on the horizon, the game was, for all intents, a must-win for the Hornets. Though it helped that McClellan’s star running back Reginald Arnold saw only limited duty because of a knee injury, the Bryant defense limited the Lions to just five first downs and only 114 yards of offense.
Still, the Lions were in Bryant territory much of the evening (five of eight possessions ended in Hornets territory) including drives that ended at the Hornets’ 17, 11 and 8.
“The defense bowed up when they had to,” Calley acknowledged. Looking ahead, he added, “We’re still doing some things on defense we shouldn’t be doing. I mean, we’re getting up the field on a veer block, the linebackers aren’t scraping where they need to be and that contributes to big plays. We can’t do that this week. We have to play a perfect ball game and hope that Central makes some mistakes.”
Against McClellan, the Hornets set the tone right off the bat with a 65 yard touchdown drive in 10 plays to open the game. Butler accounted for 24 yards in four rushes and Mask completed all four of his passes in the drive, mostly short routes. But a 22-yard connection with Richie Wood got the ball to the 1. On the next play, offensive tackle David Hollis, running at fullback in the wishbone, powered in for the touchdown.
Thanks to a 37-yard run by quarterback Ed Roberts, McClellan made a bid to answer but, on a fourth-and-5 from the 20, the Hornets hemmed in the scrambling Roberts who flung a last-second lateral to running back Cordero Mills. Though he was able to actually gain yardage, Mills was stopped short of the first down and Bryant took over.
McClellan’s next drive ended at the Bryant 40. The Lions punted the Hornets back to the 11 but two plays later, got the ball back with an interception at the 19.
Still, however, the Hornets defense wouldn’t give up the points. A pass on fourth-and-6 from the 15, was completed but receiver Bud Tillman was stopped short and Bryant took over at the 11.
The Hornets proceeded to grind their way to the McClellan 16 on runs by Jon Isbell, Butler, Blake Zuber and Kellum. The big bursts were runs of 11 and 27 yards by Kellum but, on a second-and-4 at the 16, he was caught for a loss. After a third-down pass fell incomplete, Bryan came in to drill a 34-yard field goal to make it 10-0.
And the Hornets got the ball back thanks to a nifty squib kickoff by Travis Cockerham. McClellan failed to field it cleanly and the Hornets’ Josh Vocque confiscated it.
Zuber dashed for 14 yards then 6 before Kellum broke a 13-yarder to the 1. From there, Hollis did his thing again and Bryant led 17-0.
After forcing a McClellan punt, the Hornets added to the lead, driving to another Bryan field goal. The 30-yarder came with just 31 seconds left in the half. Mask completed 3 of 4 passes to get the drive started. His 15-yarder to Dustin Holland reached the 8. But that’s where the drive stalled and, after Mask was dropped for a loss, Bryan was called upon.
The two teams traded punts in the third quarter with the Lions gaining a field-position advantage. A 25-yard run by Roberts and a 14-yard pass to Anthony Livingston had the Lions to within 8 yards of breaking up the shutout. But, once again, the Hornets dug in. When a fourth-down pass fell incomplete, Bryant took over.
In turn, the Hornets drove to the 43 with Butler carrying much of the load behind the Hornets’ path-clearing offensive line. On a fourth-and-1 at the Bryant 43, the Hornets punted. But a penalty against McClellan brought the ball back and provided a new set of downs for Bryant. The Hornets continued the march to the McClellan 16 where Bryan knocked his third field goal through to set the final score with just over six minutes left in the game.
The game was rough on the Hornets. Butler was not the only one to come out of the game for a time. Hollis, Mask, linebacker Travis Queck and guard Brian Lee were among those bruised and battered.